Getting Ready for Foodball: Georgia and Alabama Gluten Free Cupcakes

Football season is getting very close, and John and I are getting very excited about watching our favorite college teams. To help get into the spirit of things I made Georgia and Alabama themed cupcakes this past weekend.

We’re in an area where the grocery stores do not carry many gluten free flours, and my personal flour stash is empty, so I started with Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake mix. If you’ve been reading my blog or newsletter for long, then you already know how I feel about mixes (gluten free or otherwise). They’re not great! Since I wanted these cupcakes to be absolutely delicious, I felt compelled to deviate from the recipe on the back of the box and try to fix.

Change #1: Tenderize the Cake
The Betty Crocker mix tends to produce cakes that are little bit tough. There’s a noticeable resistance, particularly at the bottom of the cake, when you bite through it. I wanted to remove that toughness from the cake. Since I couldn’t adjust the flours (because I didn’t have any on hand), I decreased the number of eggs and increase the amount of butter.

Why did this work? Well, the basic ingredients in a cake are flour, eggs, fat, and sugar. The flour and eggs create the physical structure of the cake, while the fat and sugar tenderize the cake. I like the moderate sweetness of this cake, so I decrease the eggs (a structure builder) and increased the butter (a tenderizer). The combined effect of these changes resulted in cupcakes that were tender, but still held their form well.

Change #2: Color
Georgia’s colors are red and black; Alabama’s are crimson and grey. Since the cake mix was yellow, I knew that I needed to add red food coloring. I also decided to add cocoa powder to help darken the red so that I could get more of a crimson color. Red food coloring + cocoa powder = Red Velvet Cake Red Velvet Cake is a traditional Southern favorite to it seemed ever so appropriate.

However, the color of the cupcakes ended up being more Mississippi State than Alabama or Georgia. I guess that means more cupcake experiments for this weekend =) (Update: I’ve adjusted the Alabama color instructions below so that they now result in a cupcake that matches an Alabama jersey. The tops still look more like Miss State, but the insides are the correct color.)

By the way, I used red food coloring and I know a lot of people prefer not to. I would have loved to use a natural coloring that does not contain food dyes, but I was limited to what was available in the grocery stores near us. Here’s an online source that a reader recommended last year:

I’ve included my best guess for the coloring combos for different SEC teams at the bottom. I’m hoping to refine those a bit this weekend, but if you do your own experiments and come up with a color combination that I don’t have, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the body of the post.

Change #3: Leavening
The Betty Crocker mix is quite over-leavened, meaning that it has too much baking power/soda for the amount of flour included in the mix. The result is that the finished cake is never level. This is quite problematic when you want a layered cake to have even layers, or when you want to draw a design on top of a cupcake.

The only real solution for fixing an over-leavened mix is to add more flour and sugar. The problem with this solution is that it could take quite a few trials to figure out the right amount to add.

There is a cheat solution for cupcakes though. When you bake a cupcake, the sides set first and the middle sets last. If the sides of the cupcake set quickly, then the top of the cupcake rises up into a dome before the tops set. By reducing the temperature of the oven areas of the cupcake cook more evenly and the result is a flatter cupcake.

Alabama & Georgia Cupcakes

3 boxes of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
2 c. water
16 oz. butter (4 sticks), melted*
2 Tbsp. almond extract
6 eggs, jumbo

**consult the SEC colors section below for the amount of food coloring and cocoa**

cupcake liners
white icing
red and black icing for designs

Both will be red cupcakes with white icing; the Alabama will have the script A; the Georgia will have a black G with red oval

Baking Instructions:

Pour the cake mix’s dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. If you are adding cocoa, add it to the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then add the melted butter, eggs, extract and water and food coloring to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Since I needed to make Georgia and Alabama cupcakes I added 2 oz of red food coloring to the batter and then made 18 cupcakes for Georgia. I then added the 1/4 c. cocoa and an additional 1 oz. of red food coloring to the batter to make crimson batter for the Alabama cupcakes.

Pour the mix into a lined cupcake pan and bake in 325 degree oven (be sure to preheat) until the centers are firm. Take the cupcakes out and remove them from the pan to cool. Once the cupcakes are completely cool, then you can apply the icing and any additional decorations.

*If you need the cupcakes to be casein free, then substitute coconut oil

Some SEC Colors

1/2 c. cocoa powder + 2 oz. red food coloring = Alabama
2 oz. red food coloring = Georgia (and Arkansas & Ole Miss?)
1/2 c. cocoa powder + 1 oz. red food coloring = Miss State

12 g. red food coloring + 18 g. yellow food coloring = Auburn, Tennessee and Florida
(You may need to finagle the amounts of red and yellow dye if you’re trying to match the orange to a specfic school color. Orange cupcakes are not allowed in my house other than on Halloween, so you’re on your own for testing for now!)


  1. Victoria Miller says:

    Hi there, I’m going to try to make some Betty Crocker cupcakes this weekend, but only need to make one box. Should I still decrease the eggs, and increase the butter and if so what would the ration be? Thanks for your assistance.

  2. Hi Victoria,

    Yes! The box recipe calls for 3 eggs, so use 2 jumbo eggs. And then increase the butter from 1 stick to 1 1/3 stick. It’s actually a pretty small change once you bring it back down to 1 box, but there’s a definite change to the tenderness of the cake =)

  3. Yikes! It appears that most of going gluten-free is not about being healthy……lots of chemicals, lots of other starches, food colorings, sugars, and “food” items that would never be considered healthy– but no gluten. The real butter and eggs are great, but sadly the extra sugar and other stuff needed to make it work and to be palatable negate the whole healthy effect. It would be better to just ditch the wheat altogether or use it so sparingly. I am a little gluten intolerant (I just don’t feel great when I consume it) so I make a gluten free flour to use occasionally, and I also use lower gluten flour for just an occasional use.

    I love the recipes…..but….so much of “gluten-free” seems to be too many starches. We don’t have to have bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. etc. every day, multiple times a day. We weren’t designed to consume that much starch! If we don’t reign it in, we’ve just traded one bad thing for another.

  4. Roll Tide! I baked some Betty Crocker cupcakes for my daughter’s birthay last week. Since I knew they tended to be heavy and chewy, I used the directions for the ingredients, but instead of just throwing everything in the mixer at once as directed I creamed the butter and eggs first. They definitely were lighter and I didn’t have a problem with a high dome. I can’t wait to try your way this fall. I still had some complaints from the non gluten free adults. :/

  5. Babs, We definitely do not eat this way all the time. Once a week, we have a special treat. That’s it’s. For the rest of the week, we generally do not eat any grains or added sugar – even the kids.

    Everyone is at a different place on their gluten free journey. Some people need to know that they can still have cupcakes on a gluten free diet. Others want to know how to eat 100% healthy on a gluten free diet. Over time, we try to address both extremes and everything in the middle.

  6. Mary, thank you so much for the tips on using the BC mix for cupcakes. I have found that the mix makes a terrific bread (zucchini in my case) using their GF Banana Bread recipe (and a little “doctoring” with spices), but their lemon cupcake recipe using the same eggs and butter were, like Laura said, heavy and chewy. I’m definitely going to try again with your recipe.

  7. Alabama colors are Crimson and White; not crimson and grey.

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